The Oakland Borough Council has been working diligently over the past few months to find remedies and solutions to bring the borough out of the red and to a sustainable budget now and into the future. Change doesn't come easy and Council President Christina Deakin spoke out about some issues that are hindering the process Council is trying to make during their monthly meeting held on March 14th.
President Deakin is quoted as saying, "I would like everyone on this council to know that I am personally disappointed in everyone's behavior. I have heard from members of our community that certain members of this council and certain members of this community are talking about other members and spreading vicious rumors. Not only is this behavior hurtful, it is also unethical. We need to stop and think about the future of this community and some of us are not doing this right now. If you feel you let your personal feelings get in the way of our moving forward, if you feel you need to continue your negative campaign and portrayal of this borough, then you should not be here; you are becoming part of this problem and not the solution."
A major problem which President Deakin addressed as quoted saying is, "The borough holds no capital reserves and we only have five thousand, five hundred eighty-four dollars and seventy-five cents in the general account and four thousand, fifty-four dollars and forty-seven cents in the savings account. We only have this much money to keep our borough operating until our taxes come in, which will be sometime in April. We had to make difficult decisions in regards to personnel as a result of this." The borough's Treasurer, Ann Steward tallied up the March bills, which totaled seventeen thousand, eight hundred ninety-eight dollars and twenty-nine cents. There isn't enough in the bank accounts to cover current bills until the taxes start coming in.
It was discussed that Ann Stewart and Secretary Rhonda Parfitt will contact the vendors to see what could be done to hold off the creditors until tax money is received.
A rumor going around the community she addressed is one of a merger; there are no plans to merge with any other municipality. "Council is looking into regionalization of our police force, which would hopefully give us better police coverage," stated President Deakin.
Past President Eric Page sent in a resignation letter to Council stating it was an honor to have served, which Council unanimously accepted with regret.
Three people expressed interest in filling the vacancy with the resignation of Eric Page, Wendy Dudley, Teena Gall and Brad Krayeski. Council started the process when Councilman Ron Beavan motioned to nominate Wendy Dudley and the majority of Council voted nay. Things fell apart quite quickly after that when President Deakin tried to ask for a vote on the other two candidates. Members of the audience were asking her why they weren't singled out like Ms. Dudley? Council decided to hold filling the vacant seat until a later date. The meeting was tentatively scheduled for April 6th at 10:00am after Solicitor Mike Briechle researched to see if it was appropriate to hold a council meeting on a Saturday.
The next order of business was to remove Paul Dudley as Oakland Borough's Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC). Councilwoman Valerie Senese said the recommendation was based upon Mr. Dudley not showing up for borough meetings and there was no other communication between him and Council. She said he hasn't been attending the Susquehanna County Emergency Management training sessions either. President Deakin said the borough must have an active member or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not pay any claims to the borough in the event of a disaster. Council removed Mr. Dudley by majority vote from his duties as EMC.
Councilwoman Senese motioned and Council approved Kimberly Tuttle to step in as the borough's EMC. With nineteen years as a member of the fire department, she has a lot of experience to offer the borough.
Doug Arthur did have a question for Ms. Tuttle. He was concerned, since she was a fire fighter, would she go to the firehouse or stay in Oakland during a disaster. Ms. Tuttle responded she would be in Oakland if there were a disaster to fulfill her position as EMC.
At this time Council, Mayor and the Solicitor retired to Executive Session to discuss personnel and litigation issues. Council was in session for quite a while, and there was yelling, then loud banging coming from the room. President Deakin came out and asked Chief John Creamer to remove Councilman Beavan from the room. Chief Creamer came out alone, a few minutes later. Council, Mayor and Solicitor reconvened normally and called the meeting back to order.
President Deakin stated more personnel changes needed to be made and said they needed to change Jeff Wayman's hours to reduce him from a full time employee to a part time employee. By making this change he would lose his health insurance since neither the borough nor the water authority was able to sustain the cost. Several members of the audience spoke out about this change stating that it would be harmful to Mr. Wayman to lose his insurance, and the borough may lose him as an employee based upon their decision to cut hours and insurance. Councilman Dave Dibble stated they couldn't, by law offer one part time employee health insurance and not the other two part time employees. Tim Cavanaugh stated Mr. Wayman does a good job for the Borough and the water authority and they are doing him an injustice. President Deakin stated based upon all the information they gave to the people that night on the borough's finances, they cannot afford to pay his health insurance. Councilwoman Senese said unfortunately he isn't the only person they had to make difficult decisions about and others were also let go. A lengthy discussion followed between Council and members of the audience, but the decision was made to have Mr. Wayman's hours shift from full time to part time per diem. At this moment the borough doesn't know how they're going to pay their bills, and salary for their employees is currently their primary concern. Mayor Randy Glover will be the point of contact for the Street Department and is to call Mr. Wayman when needed.
Treasurer Ann Stewart was approved for two hours of work per week when she was hired, but this time of year reporting is due and she cannot complete her tasks in two hours. Council approved Ms. Stewart to work four to five hours a week for the next four weeks.
Public Entity Risk Management Authority (PERMA) general liability and workman's compensation insurance payment will be eight thousand, four hundred thirty-two dollars, which is a savings from severing personnel ties with the water authority. Council motioned to accept the new amount of coverage for 2019-2020.
Council also approved hiring Harold "Butch" Kelsey as an agent to enforce the Borough Codes at fourteen dollars an hour per diem at quarterly rates.
Councilwoman Senese was looking for a motion to file the Request for Proposal (RFP) to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for an Early Intervention Program that was discussed in length at previous meetings. She reiterated the program was at least a fifty-fifty split but could be up as high as an 80/20 split. Councilwoman Senese stated they would get a financial advisor the state pays for to look over all their finances that would take approximately six months. Once they completed their review, they would submit to Council a five-year plan. There are two options; stay as you are or adopt their plan. The next step if they chose to adopt the plan the DCED recommended would be implementation. During this time anything the borough needs, such as computers, printers and copiers etcetera, the state will pay for it. The borough wouldn't have to start paying their share for three years. Council unanimously agreed to submit the RFP.
Councilwoman Senese stated the feral cat program with Kindred Spirits was a great success. They neutered over a hundred cats and they also raised funds in the amount of seven hundred dollars for the continuation of this program. Thanks go out to Susquehanna Borough for hosting the event, setting up the mobile unit and housing the cats. Doug Arthur thanked Councilwoman Senese for starting up the project and for cleaning the Susquehanna Borough building after the two-day event. Teena Gall said she would also like to thank Doug Arthur, who spent two days setting up and resetting the traps and transporting the cats back and forth to the mobile unit.
Carol Trevarthan asked about the concession stand at the park. She said the little league has been using it to make money for their association and the borough has lost funds from the stand. Ms. Trevarthan said the little league has other ways of raising funds but the borough doesn't. President Deakin informed Ms. Trevarthan the little league has helped them in other ways, such as performing maintenance at the park, a big undertaking considering the condition of the park is really bad.
Chief Creamer provided his February Police Report to Mayor Glover and Council reporting the officers responded to eighteen incidents which consisted of debris in road, disorderly conduct, harassment by communications, littering, motor vehicle accident, suspicious vehicle, theft, traffic stop, welfare check and drug arrests.
High School Principal Robert Presley gave a detailed rundown of changes to his school's "Program of Studies" at the Mountain View School Board meeting on March 11th. A similar presentation for the middle school grades will be offered later, which Mr. Presley said would not show much change.
The most important change for the High School seemed to be in the reconfiguration of mathematics. Mr. Presley said that the experiment with splitting Algebra 1 into 2 courses will be discontinued, as not offering the hoped-for performance improvement. Instead, Algebra 1B will be dropped; Algebra 1A will continue as preparation for the full-length Algebra 1. An honors geometry class will also be added. A computer science course will also be added as a grant-funded initiative to jump-start a STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Mountain View.
As requested and approved by the Board, the course weighting policy will be modified to enhance the GPA score for advanced placement and honors courses to help students better compete with their peers in college entrance applications.
Graduation requirements are adjusted somewhat, according to Mr. Presley, in order to allow students to add a STEM course to their schedules. This was done by rearranging arts requirements to include "World Language." Mr. Presley said that the "Culture Shock" course next year will cover World War II – including all cultural aspects, not just the history.
The Board also heard an outline of Bob Taylor's maintenance requests as the Board brings together its budget for the fiscal year that will begin in July. Mr. Taylor reported that his budget offering is $58,500 less than for the current year. Part of that is a cut to electrical power costs due to the recent renovation of the schools. He said that of the current year's budget of $190,000 for power, only $99,000 has so far been spent for nearly nine months, but he was reluctant to cut further until he has at least a full year of experience with the new systems.
Mr. Taylor reported cuts in many areas of his budget, but didn't cut much from the account for fuel oil, used as backup for the wood-fired boilers. He called the fuel-oil budget his "bank account," in case he runs short elsewhere. Even at a higher price, the wood chips save substantially over oil as a heating fuel.
As a side note, Superintendent Karen Voigt mentioned that, so far the preliminary overall budget is about $1.3 million over target.
Ms. Voigt will have a challenge meeting that goal, but at least she'll have another year to consider its implications. The Board extended her contract for another year, through 2020.
Where the cafeteria comes into all this will be difficult to say. The Board approved another "loan" of $30,000 to the food service fund.
Mr. Taylor also reported that the door barricade devices for security have been ordered.
The Board approved a lengthy sabbatical leave for the very popular art teacher, Diana Lombardi. Before she goes off she will take large groups of students to the Corning Museum of Glass in April, and to New York City in June.
The Board approved an agreement with the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) for "cyber services" for the next school year. VLN provides an alternative to the so-called "cyber charter" schools available statewide that can be very expensive for local public schools. According to Ms. Voigt, the contract will cost the District $9,375 per year, plus about $4,000 per student in the program for a year. Contrast that with the approximately $32,000 per student per year charged by private cyber-charter operators.
As chair of the Board's Policy Committee, Christine Plonski-Sezer gave a first reading of a very long, detailed and complicated new policy on Child Abuse. Her reading was difficult to follow without a printed copy. A comprehensive rewrite of a policy adopted in 2011, the new policy bears close reading, and the public will have about a month to consider it. The revised policy is said to be available on the District's website.
Mr. Presley reported that the trap shooting club that he helped to establish last year has grown to about 30 students, including 3 girls. He also reported on recent cheerleading competitions, a first for Mountain View, and a way to demonstrate athletic ability not directly associated with other sporting events.
Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Michael Elia, reported on training for staff in "de-escalation skills." The training covers 3 days, 7 hours per day.
Such skills come in handy, as do some of the other efforts by Mountain View to mitigate and contain dangerous situations. To that end, the District is sponsoring a "Safety Summit" for its community on March 28 beginning at 7pm in the High School auditorium. The program will cover the Safe2Say Something initiative and its "app," the dangers of "vaping," and an introduction to ALICE training (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) – what the students are learning. You will also have a chance to meet the District's "School Resource Officer," James Bernosky.
The Mountain View School Board will meet next in public session on March 25, 2019 beginning at 7:00pm in the conference room in the Elementary School.
On March 11th, Forest City Regional School District School Board meeting started with the sixth grade choir, lead by Mrs. Yuravich singing the National Anthem, and another lovely song for all who attended the meeting.
Following the performance, Mr. Kelly introduced Kayleigh Graham, who was chosen as the Super Sixth Grader. Followed by the Mighty Foresters for February: Anna Erdmann, Pre-K; Leo Sullivan, Kindergarten; Ariana Priebe, Grade 1; Madison Hunter, Grade 2; Onyella Wielebinski, Grade 3; Azalea Brown, Grade 4; Gabriella Duprey, Grade 5; Clara Stackhouse, Grade 6. Mrs. Stout introduced the Outstanding Seniors Matthew Giles and Maggie Kowalewski.
Regular monthly business followed with the board approving the normal expenditures and approving the submitted reports.
A contract was approved with VLN Partners who provide cyber services to school districts to help them establish their own district-based virtual academy programs. Superintendent Dr. Jessica Aquilina stated the program would not be marketed until the 2019-2020 school year.
Rainey & Rainey CPA completed the 2018 Audit with no findings in the report.
School board members approved a software service agreement at an annual cost of one thousand thirty dollars with iSolved HCM. Other agreements consisted of purchasing natural gas and electricity through UGI Energy Services.
Carrie Lynn Reeder was approved as a substitute van driver for the 2018-2019 school year. Extracurricular appointments were Art Bronson as Volunteer Baseball Scorekeeper, Corey Brewer Assistant Varsity Coach, and Jennifer Dovin Intramural Volleyball Girls and Boys Coach.
Graduation will be held on June 14th, last day for students will be June 13th and the last day for faculty and staff is June 17th. If any more snow days occur they will develop another way for the seniors to make up the time, stated Superintendent Aquilina.
Superintendent Aquilina wanted to express her thanks to the commissioners, especially Commissioner Hall for working to provide the AG Mobile Lab at the FCRSD. She also expressed her thanks to Mary Lee Martiner for everything she does to contribute to the school. Superintendent Aquilina said Ms. Martiner is able to provide a positive account balance in food service, which is not a norm for an in-house service. She is also thrilled to have home made food for the kids. Ms. Martiner is named 2019 PA School Breakfast Hero with the Healthy School Breakfast Program No Kid Hungry.
High School Drama will present the "Wizard of Oz" March 29th through the 31st.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners' meeting on Wednesday, March 13th began with service recognitions for several County employees. Marking a 5 year milestone were; Vernon Bailey (Corrections), Jeffrey Hindman (Corrections), Ronald Gregory (Maintenance), Samantha Wickizer (Assessment office). Ruth Evans from the Treasurer's office was recognized for her ten years of service and Diana Snow from the Domestic Relations Department for her 20 years of service.
Nine seminar requests were approved by the County Commissioners at Wednesday morning's meeting. The combined seminars will cost the County approximately $14,000.00.
A new assistant Director of Elections and Voter Registrar was approved by the passing of a motion at the morning meeting. Marjorie Perry of Hallstead was approved for the position at the recommendation of Macy Rudock, the Director.
The Mayor of Forest City, Christopher Glinton was present at the meeting. Mayor Glinton stated he was at the meeting to endorse the current Commissioners in the up-coming election. Mayor Glinton credits the Commissioners for bringing businesses to Forest City. In August 2017, a fire destroyed many storefronts in Forest City. Mayor Glinton said Forest City is in the midst of a "Main Street Comeback." A new health clinic will be opening, Johnson College is coming to Forest City and a bus company based out of Scranton will soon be available in Forest City. The Industrial Park is ready and available for other businesses, according to Mayor Glinton. Glinton says he is currently soliciting businesses to open in the Industrial Park.
In response, Commissioner Alan Hall said, "We want to help, not control."
Margaret Biegert attended the Susquehanna Borough Council meeting held on March 13th on behalf of the Susquehanna Community Development Association (SCDA) with a proposal for Council to partner with the SCDA to hire an Activities Coordinator for the new Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park. She said the SCDA discussed paying the Coordinator twelve dollars an hour for twelve hours of work per week to organize activities at the park, and throughout town.
The SCDA was suggesting activities such as yoga in the park, wine and cheese parties and other activities to be held every Friday night so people would have something to do during the nice weather. Ms. Biegert said they were planning a 40/60-split, contingent on the borough contributing four thousand dollars. SCDA was also asking if it would be possible for this person to be able to use a section of the Borough building for an office space with a filing cabinet since trying to find rental space in town would cost extra funds. Ms. Biegert said they would work most of the time from home, but they would need to have a place to file paperwork and have meetings to coordinate the events.
Ms. Biegert said the SCDA would also like to have a volunteer from Council draw up a job description, to identify their responsibilities such as identifying venues and advertising on Facebook. The committee felt it would be best to have one person from Council and one from the SCDA to oversee this position, instead of the coordinator answering to multiple people.
Councilwoman Deborah Zayas said it was a great idea and Council President Roy Williams said it would be best for their Finance Committee to review the request, but he didn't see a problem with contributing four thousand dollars. He suggested they set aside some time next month with a few people from Council and the SCDA to get together and discuss the position further.
Thomas Follert who is running for Susquehanna County Commissioner under the Democratic ticket attended the meeting to introduce himself. Mr. Follert stated he also serves as Councilman in Montrose, so he can appreciate the work they are doing in Susquehanna. He said he has made great strides as Councilman for a Borough and he is looking forward to doing more throughout the County. Mr. Follert said he started the Chocolate and Wine Festival that is an annual event in Montrose, along with 3rd Fridays and Christmas in Montrose.
In November Gannon Dooneo, a Boy Scout working towards his Eagle Badge approached Council with a project he would like to accomplish at the Ira Reynolds monument. At that meeting Council wasn't too far into the project and wasn't quite sure where the monument would be located so Gannon attended tonight's meeting to follow up. President Williams said they are contemplating the center of the park that is on the west side of the pavilion. He said he would be willing to meet with Gannon and walk the site so he would be able to get a better perspective of the area and how much room he would have for the project.
President Williams stated they received a request from the American Legion Post 86 to conduct a Memorial Day Parade on May 27th at 11:00am with formation starting at 10:30 on the Oakland side of the bridge. Council unanimously agreed to issue a parade permit.
Kevin McKee submitted a request to advertise for a bid to mill portions of Washington Street with an overlay from Fourth Avenue to Franklin Avenue. He reported the red light survey was complete; he spoke with the Fire Department and they don't have a problem changing the light on Main Street at the intersection of the bridge. Mr. McKee said they would change the signal to a blinking yellow light on Main Street and a blinking red light with a stop sign on the bridge at the intersection of Main Street.
Mayor Nancy Hurley said there are two events coming up, sponsored by Susquehanna United Methodist Church in May. The first one will be held on May 4th titled True Pharm that addresses opioid abuse. On May 18th Mary Pat Kelly Upright, who wrote the book Tell Them For Me, is the speaker. Both events will be at held at 1:30pm and refreshments will be served after each event.
Chief John Creamer requested additional help by having another officer on shift with him so he would have time to conduct his administrative duties. He said it was impossible to catch up on his paperwork while patrolling. Mayor Hurley said it was all within the budget and Councilwoman Zayas asked if he had enough personnel available to cover the shifts. Chief Creamer responded yes he would have enough coverage since he would work different hours to accommodate the other officers. He also requested to place an ad in the paper to hire another part-time officer.
Susquehanna Officers reported to forty-two incidents during the month of February, which consisted of burglary alarm, animal attack, assault, domestic dispute, disable vehicle, motor vehicle accident, PFA, repossession, suspicious vehicle, warrant service and traffic stops.
Chief Creamer stated National Night Out is August 6th and he will be looking for donations from Council for this event. He said he would like to see it larger than last year.
Codes Enforcement Officer Harold (Butch) Kelsey submitted his report for the month of February which contained fifteen Notices of Violation issued, twelve citations and sixteen tickets for residents not shoveling snow from their sidewalk.
President Williams said he will be attending an Emergency Management class on March 27th at 6:30pm on initial damage assessment and on March 30th he will be attending an all day class on hazardous materials.
Delta Engineering submitted a proposal along with a few different scenarios with conceptual drawings for the railroad crossing leading to the park. President Williams stated there were some issues that needed to be addressed before he presented them to Council.